One in five children, and one in twelve adults have eczema, but many of us know very little about it. In recognition of National Eczema Week, Dr Verity Blackwell, consultant dermatologist at Spire Harpenden Hospital, discusses the causes and treatments for eczema.
What is eczema?
Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a dry, itchy, skin condition. Skin can vary from being itchy and red to having severe cracking and oozing. Skin affected by eczema cannot perform its usual function of a barrier to keep in moisture and to keep out irritants, infection and substances that can cause allergy.
Can I catch eczema?
No - eczema is often due to a genetic difference that means the skin produces fewer oils. As skin ages less oils are produced so the skin of older patients can become drier and more prone to eczema.
Is there just one type of eczema?
The most common type of eczema is Atopic eczema. It commonly starts in childhood and affects families that are also prone to asthma, hayfever and allergies.
However, there are a number of different types of eczema, with different causes. They can be triggered by irritants, allergens or the presence of yeast on the skin. Other types of eczema are more common in older people.
What makes my eczema worse?
Skin prone to eczema can be made drier by using soaps and detergents. It can become inflamed, itchy and weepy.
What can help my skin?
Emollients are essential for all forms of eczema to repair the barrier function of the skin. Topical steroids can be very useful to control eczema flares. Possible irritants or allergies can be investigated by patch testing. Varicose eczema, which commonly affects the lower legs in older people, can be helped with bandaging with emollients and topical steroids.
All types of eczema can be assessed and treated by a dermatologist at Spire Harpenden Hospital.
Where can learn more?
Lots of very usual information can be found on these websites:
National Eczema Society
British Association of Dermatology
These links are outside Spire Healthcare's control and we take no responsibility for the information they contain.